By Niall Murphy, Concern Worldwide
Juna Dely lives on the island of La Gonave, Haiti, with her partner Jean Wodline, his mother, and five of her six children. Between 2007 and 2009, Juna participated in Concern Worldwide‘s Chemen Lavi Miyo program, which translates to “Path to a Better Life.” The program sought to do exactly that—give Haiti’s poorest people a path to a better life through income-generating activities as well as access to health, education, and credit services based on their needs.
I met Juna because I am currently researching to see how effective the program was in breaking the cycle of poverty over the long-term. She is one of 500 female-headed households that have participated in Path to a Better Life across four of Haiti’s districts. As to be expected, I am finding that the program had many successes, but it was not without challenges.
Juna was part of one of the first participants in Path to a Better Life. It used what we called the “graduation model,” which recognizes that poverty is multi-layered and cannot be overcome through one loan alone. The rationale behind the model is simple: some households are too poor to access credit, so Concern helps to jump-start their finances by providing them with income opportunities and encouraging them to save.
After they graduate from Path to a Better Life, the participants are encouraged to get a small loan (usually $25) from our local partner, Fonkonze, a Haitian micro-finance institution, which they can use to expand the business they established while in the program. If they successfully repay the loan, they can access another one at a higher amount and continue to grow their business and family income.
Juna said that when she first graduated from Path to a Better Life, her income increased, but as the years went on and the country was rocked by natural disasters and food price increases, she now struggles to send all of her children to school. However, she told me reading level continues to improve and she showed off her hand-writing (which, I admit, is far better than mine). She and her family represent some of the limits to Path to a Better Life—sometimes the gains made are not enough to overcome external obstacles that our outside of Juna and her family’s control.
In the town of Saut d’Eau in Central Haiti, another participant, Sencia Tranquille, is still growing her business that was established through Path to a Better Life. She took the livestock that she received through Path to a Better Life and expanded on it, selling chickens in a market stall and buying a young calf, a status symbol in Haiti.
She told me that she, not her husband, is the one who makes the decisions at home, from what to put on the table to what assets to sell and buy. The new income also allowed her to put a concrete floor in her home, put healthy meals on the table, and buy a table and chairs for her family to eat their meals on. Sencia is the goal and while the model is not a silver bullet to eradicating poverty or Haiti’s deep-rooted problems, I am encouraged that it can change a life.